Suspended Animation

New technology lets you take your PC anywherevirtually

Sometime in the near future you may be able to leave your computer at home but make the state of your computer–including its operating system, programs, and data–appear on any other computer connected to the Internet–right down to the spot you last left your mouse cursor. Research on Internet Suspend/ Resume (ISR) being conducted by Intel R&D near Carnegie Melon University in Pittsburgh. (http://info.pittsburgh.intel research.net/project/isr/) is trying to make this possible. Your neighbor’s computer or a coffee shop PC could “resume” your environment with the look, feel, and up-to-the-minute content of your own machine.

“A person could leave their office, go the airport, get into their plane seat, and there will be a keyboard and screen built into the plane seat in front of them,” says Kevin Teixeira, spokesperson for Intel R&D media relations, explaining Intel’s vision for the new technology. “And when they activate it, their desktop is recreated right there.” As the man in seat 11A could have the state of his Windows machine presented from across the Internet, the woman in seat 11B could be working away on a copy of her Linux or Mac environment. Teixeira explains that instead of sending individual files to a printer or via e-mail across wide area networks and local area networks, with ISR, you would be able to send the entire computing environment. “And when you’re done, it would all be transmitted back to your system securely,” says Teixeira.

If all that sounds like a tremendous amount of bandwidth to shoehorn through the Internet every time you move your laptop, that’s one of the reasons the project is in a collaborative think-tank environment directed by rotating professors from CMU. Storage at the local end is another problem: A complete business environment has to be downloaded somewhere when you restore it at, say, your mother’s house without dragging her system down. Technology researchers hope the latter problem will be alleviated by Content Addressable Storage, a way to make better use of local resources.

Although it might seem too far ahead in the future to realize now, free-wheeling research like ISR is what put men on the moon. Other avant-garde research projects are being conducted in “open collaboratives” at Intel R&D facilities near the University of Washington, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

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